Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Columbia Icefields

JG and I have done a lot of driving around over the years, have followed a lot of the roads identified in a National Geographic handbook of scenic drives, have explored byways and rutted trails to no where and have, for the most part, been awed and delighted by the scenery encountered. But I think our favourite road is the one between Banff and the Columbia Icefields. It has been improved over the years and now contains only one section where I want to grope for the anti-panic pills in my purse (see previous post). In any kind of weather, it is a drive well worth doing.

JG is also fascinated by the glaciers of the Columbia ice fields and has made three trips over the years to see them. ( I have made two.) While driving out onto the glacier itself is a bit of a mixed adventure (mega steep approach!), it is also pretty spectacular. And the obligatory photographs give you a marvellous reference about what has changed over fifty years.

The first trip JG took was in the summer of 1962. Here he is in a typical young adult pose and here is what he rode onto the glacier inside. Although I have not done this myself, I am assured by several sources that it was one of the noisiest vehicles you could imagine.

Here is what the hanging glacier on the left(east) side of the Columbia Ice field looked like in the summer of '62.

In September of 1999 we did the trip again. We rode in onto the glacier in dignity in a big, high-wheeled bus, a bus only partly filled with mostly, as I recall, North American tourists. It was easy to get a good photo of the main glacier and the hanging east side glacier. There was a lot less of it.

Hanging glacier

Main glacier

Our third trip was last month, September of 2012, just a little over 50 years since JG's first trip. The machine he rode in on the first trip is now painted up and parked in the interpretation centre as an interesting antique. You have to drive a good bit farther to reach the main ice field and we were driven in a series of two huge buses, one of a string of buses taking tourists out, most crammed with tourists from Japan, China and Korea interspersed with a few North Americans.

When we reached the glacier it was swarmed by tourists collecting melt water and having lots of photos taken with a Canadian flag. I did manage, however to get a photo of the east hanging glacier, shrunken even further.
Hanging glacier.

Main glacier

Here is the antique snow machine. Notice, I am not making any other comments on antiquity.

We stayed overnight at the hotel that forms the third floor of the interpretation centre. I highly recommend doing this as you have an exceptional view of the main glacier in varied lighting conditions. This photo was taken from the patio at dawn - long exposure, no tripod, but not too much shake. The glacier shown is the west one - Icedome.

It's very much a case of good-bye glacier. Of course, photographer and subject are a bit eroded too.

One more photo, this one from '99.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Thoughts from the Road

JG and I have just completed a five week car trip from our home in Eastern Ontario to Vancouver and return. Although we did shorter driving days (average 6hr 30 minutes) and stayed in Vancouver for five days, we found the trip more tiring than previous similar long driving vacations. I am finding that passing three score and ten does tend to slow one down a bit. But we had fun and we had incredible luck with the weather. 

 I find myself taking unplanned naps, still dreaming of roads unrolling (and from time to time unravelling) before me. Since I have now done a first run through my photographs, here are some roads we travelled.

 Sun Across the Prairies

 The Icefields Parkway (between Banff and Lake Louise)

 More Icefields Parkway

 The top of Mount Revelstoke (we walked this one)

 Heading for Lillooet BC

 The Frank Slide (faint line is the road in the distance)

Chaplin, Saskatchewan

Leaving on Sept 21st after visiting JG's mother, we drove up to Tober Moray and took the ferry across to Manitoulin Island, then drove up to 17 (the Trans Canada Highway, friends from the US of A) and headed west and north and west and .......... All of the time from Sault Ste Marie until we re-entered Ontario on the homeward journey was almost completely rain free and sunny and frequently warm. The worst we encountered was some fog in the mornings and a few clouds, notably at Roger's Pass in BC, spoiling my last chance of great mountain photographs and causing me to miss the one group of mountain goats we saw (low visibility = no place to stop). And when we got back to Ontario on October 24th, the leaves were mostly still on the trees in their gold and crimson and ochre glory. Of course they came down with a whump two days later.

The most annoying thing about this trip is that, given the weather, all of the provinces had closed their interpretation centres, most of their parks and a good number of their wayside rest facilities. It is more than a little disconcerting to drive up to a marked wayside rest stop and find a gate across the entrance and the washrooms locked. Blessings on Manitoba, who, while closing down their western interpretation centre, left the bathrooms open. Blessings on whatever district administrator in Northern Ontario decided to leave the rest stops around the north shore of Lake Superior both open and clean. All through our trip you saw the occasional driver out of his (note, HIS) car standing dreamily, legs akimbo, beside the edge of the road. It's a long, long time between gas stations and fast food outlets in northern Ontario and across the prairies.

But I got lots of roadside photos.